AASL Conference Takeaways


I was so fortunate this month to attend the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National Conference in Hartford, CT, and to get to hear from, network with, and socialize with many of the 3,000+ teacher librarians attending. I came home with an overwhelming number of great new ideas and “to do’s.” As I process it all, I know I will be using and sharing what I learned with teachers, students, and other librarians throughout this school year and beyond. Here are just a few of my takeaways:

A few ideas for the Mira Costa Library:

  • Makerspace activities – There is a growing movement of “makerspaces” – places that allows for tinkering and experimenting, where students can think and learn, create and do, share, and grow. Schools, libraries, community centers, and other institutions are setting up such spaces, enabling students to learn through hands-on, participatory exploration. I attended a session presented by Teacher Librarian Leslie Preddy about how a makerspace can be a valuable addition to learning in a school library. I would like to experiment with some maker sessions in the Mira Costa Library and, if it generates interest from students, see if I can extend the model.
  • Libraries have actually been “flipping” instruction for a long time – providing video, visual, and textual tutorials for students to access online whenever they need help. The Mira Costa library site already has a number of tutorials, and I have been working to extend the offerings. Clearly, as Teacher Librarian Michelle Luhtala shared in one of the conference sessions, flipping material needs to engage and challenge; it can’t just be lecturing students online. At this conference, I got lots of ideas of how I can do that and extend what I offer both to students and teachers, providing engaging instruction at the point of need, whether that be when they are home, working on their own in the library, or as part of classroom activities. Flipping can also help students who missed a lesson due to absence. Teacher Librarian Nikki Robertson shared how she records all her lessons using Google + hangouts. Stand by as I try that at Mira Costa, and do plan to see a lot more tutorial content and recorded lessons on the library website this year!
  • I have always encouraged students to contact me by email when they need help with anything, but, clearly, email is not the communication tool of choice for most of our students. Michelle Luhtala shared how she has taken advantage of Google Voice to allow students to text requests for help. She sets her Google Voice number to be forwarded to her cell phone. She has seen a huge increase in the number of questions students send her using this method. I am going to set up a Google Voice number for our library and start publicizing it for library and tech support requests. (Stand by while I figure out how to add a second Google Voice forwarding number to my cell, since I already have a personal one I am forwarding.)

An idea for our school or district professional development days:

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  • One of the innovations at this conference was the Friday night “Unconference,” the brainchild of Teacher Librarian Joyce Valenza. Modeled on a number of Edcamps that have been taking place around the country, on  Friday night from 9 PM to Midnight, we participated in a program consisting of:
    • Two short time-slots for participant-driven small group discussions, with topics determined by submissions shortly before the event and some right at the event.
    • A rocks/sucks session in which we debated whether we agreed or disagreed with a given concept. This included a lively discussion of whether we should communicate with students on Facebook, whether we should re-organize our libraries by genre rather than Dewey, and more.
    • A Smackdown, in which all participants were invited up to the mic to share – in two minutes or less – some of their best recent discoveries or tips. The tip that I shared during the Smackdown was how to use the Google Research Tool in Google Presentations and Docs to find and give credit to Creative Commons-licensed images and other material.

I loved how the Unconference, even complete with “Unrules,” allowed participants, through crowd-sourcing, to determine their own topics discussion, and gave everyone a chance to take the mic and share their ideas with others. I could see all or part of this program as a great formula to use for some of our Mira Costa and/or District Professional Development days.

Tools we can all use:

My list of new-to-me online tools is a mile long. Here are just three that could be of interest to all our teachers:

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  • Canva.com. A new online presentation tool offering vibrant designs and graphic elements for creating documents, presentations, cards, or social media designs. The site and many of the graphics are free, but some of the graphics cost $1 a piece. To use them, you pay as you “check out” and publish your work as a PDF or PNG, or share it directly to Facebook or Twitter. Thanks to Joyce Valenza for sharing this tool. The site is currently in beta, but it took just a few hours to receive my account after I requested it. I also received 5 instant access account invitations I could share with any readers who contact me.
  • FatURL. This simple tool allows you to create one short URL bundling links to multiple websites. You can share just this one URL with your students, and thereby allow them to access multiple links. Thanks to Teacher Librarian Tiffany Whitehead for this one.
  • PBS LearningMedia. One of the exhibitors at the conference was PBS, sharing the organization’s new learning media resources. Here’s the description from the site: “PBS LearningMedia™ is your destination for direct access to thousands of classroom-ready, curriculum-targeted digital resources. PBS LearningMedia builds on the strength of public media and is designed to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Resources are aligned to Common Core and national standards and include videos and interactives, as well as audio, documents, and in-depth lesson plans. You can browse by standards, grade level, subject area, and special collections. You can also favorite, and share resources with your class and colleagues through folders and social media. Best of all, PBS LearningMedia’s basic service is free for PreK-12 educators.” Do check it out!

I also came away with some great ideas for effective advocacy. For any library friends reading this, I will be sharing a blog posting on my personal blog asap with some of those ideas.

I feel so fortunate that I was able to attend this conference. Getting to connect face-to-face with teacher librarian friends from around the country has immensely strengthened my existing personal learning network and will continue to enrich my work on an ongoing basis. I will also get even more from the conference over the coming weeks when videos of many of the sessions are posted for conference attendees and AASL members on AASL’s eCOLLAB.

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Visiting with Sara Kelly Johns, Doug Johnson, & Nikki Robertson, some of the star member of my PLN
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Wrapping up the conference with conference buddy Jessica Gillis

Author D.J. MacHale Visit December 4

DJ MacHale Read PosterSYLO

The Mira Costa Library is delighted to welcome D.J. MacHale, a local, acclaimed author, to our school on December 4, 2013. Mr. MacHale will be speaking at three sessions in the library, sharing about his craft. Mr. MacHale’s books include the 10-book Pendragon series, the Morpheus Road trilogy, and his newest title, SYLO, the first book of a trilogy, just released last June. Students will have the opportunity to sign up to attend one of the sessions on a lottery basis, and all students who have read one or more of his books before the visit will be guaranteed a spot in one of the sessions. Some teachers will also be signing up to bring their entire classes for these session.

The library has copies of his books to borrow, but I encourage you to also purchase one or more of his books to enjoy and keep. All students who purchase books will have the opportunity to meet Mr. MacHale and have their books signed during Period 6 of the visit day. We have arranged with {pages} bookstore, a local Manhattan Beach independent book vendor, to order his titles, and a portion of your purchases will also benefit our library. Please print and complete order form to order books as soon as possible so that you will have ample time to read before Mr. MacHale’s visit. You can also order online at this link: http://bit.ly/machalebooks

For more information, contact Jane Lofton, Teacher Librarian.